Less than 5 months for the proposed take-off of Nigeria’s new national carrier, Nigeria Air, some experts in the nation’s aviation industry have listed debts owed former workers of Nigeria Airways Limited (NAL) and fleet management as major challenges that would hamper the operations.
For smooth operations, they are of the view that the severance benefits totaling over N78 billion owed NAL workers should be paid before starting operations.
Decrying government’s insensitivity to the ex-NAL workers, the secretary-general, National Union of Air Transport Employees, NUATE comrade Olayinka Abioye said that the carrier can only fly and be successful if government do the needful of paying the workers of the defunct Nigeria Airways Limited that the new carrier is replacing.
He said the NAL ex-staff are being owed as severance benefits over N78 billion which the government promised to pay but till now nothing has been done.
‘‘This government is playing to the gallery, more than 10,000 former workers of Nigeria Airways served this country, service this National Carrier that went dead in the hands of Obasanjo. The federal government is owing them N78 billion as their severance benefits, President Muhammadu Buhari approved that the money be paid but it has not been paid”.
In his own submission, secretary-general of the Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANAP), comrade Abdulrazak Saidu said that government needs to do the important things first as a lot of Nigeria Airways workers are dying.
Stating that without the payment of their arrears, the Nigeria Air may not succeed, he said, “the unveiling was nothing to take serious, they left this country to go and unveil their National Carrier in another country. You think this people are serious about this, when there is nothing on ground here.
“Everyone wants a national carrier for the country; it is only the way government is going about it. How can you launch an airline when nothing is on ground? What type of aircraft are they using? If you want to manufacture, has it been ordered or will it be manufactured before December or produced down. These are the questions”.
President, Aviation Round Table Safety Initiative, ARTSI, elder Gbenga Olowo while applauding government’s effort in fulfilling its promise to restart a National Carrier said government must not be too forward in doing certain things that the transaction adviser is expected to do.
Olowo said: ‘‘The logo looks good, I can see the flame go into the air and I hope it doesn’t flame out. I am expecting to hear from the transaction adviser the modus operandi of that airline that is the most important thing to me, the transaction adviser should tell us the boards, the management of the airline, these are people who should take decision because I heard the Minister is already talking with the aircraft manufacturer, lessors and things like that. The decision about aircraft funds, whether to lease or purchase, if you are going to do a private airline, this should rest on the board and management and I don’t think that is the role of the minister.
Although, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has recommended a minimum of two aircraft as part of the guidelines and process of getting an Aircraft Operators Certificate (AOC), Olowo had earlier advised that in the Nigeria of his dream, an operator must start with an equivalent of a South African Airways, which is 50 aircraft, one operator.
“We must do equal services to the countries of all the foreign airlines. If Lufthansa does three flights, I will do three to Germany. BA will do seven and I will do seven. You will not let them do 21 and ask me to do 21 because they already have the market. I am going to deliberately reduce their market and give it to my people. I must make sure that our airline has what it takes before I will go to Britain to negotiate”, he said.
Meanwhile, NCAA had thrown its weight behind the proposed national carrier, confirming that the December target of starting operations is feasible.
Assuring Nigerians, the Director General of NCAA, Capt Usman Mukhar said that once an operator is properly guided and is willing to go by the guidelines and process of getting an Aircraft Operators Certificate (AOC), it takes just 90 days.
Usman therefore, assured that, with that timeline in mind, the possibility of national carrier scaling through is quite feasible within the time-frame.
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